SAN JOSE – Flor Martinez knows what it’s like to grow up in a family where a trip to the movies is as much a luxury as a visit to Disneyland. As an undocumented Mexican immigrant who came to America at the age of three, she remembers her family relying on the kindness of strangers to help navigate a new country, food banks to feed them, and free community events. to entertain children.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Martinez has worked hard to bring the community back to its Latin American neighbors from Silicon Valley to San Martin and Salinas through its new nonprofit, Celebration Nation Inc, which organizes events for farming families. After a viral video she posted on Instagram gave her thousands of new followers, she used her newly discovered national influence to help a community that has long lacked support.
From handing out food to organizing festivals and even organizing school supplies for the children of farmers and immigrants, here’s a look at how Martinez brings marginalized communities out of the shadows.
Tell me about this Instagram post, how did it get so big and what was your reaction to it?
That really made us who we are today. In August 2020, when the fires were happening and there was smoke and heat waves everywhere, I went to social media to pay attention to this. I was an agricultural worker when I was 14 and 15, so I thought about people who work on farms that don’t have N95 masks, let alone protect against pesticide dust and hazardous smoke. So I went on social media to express my disappointment. It went viral and my followers increased from 20,000 to 100,000 overnight. Then Celebration Nation grew out of it.
What is Celebration Nation?
Basically, I started this non-profit organization in March 2020, and it was supposed to be a branch of our event company that we had before the pandemic. After the pandemic struck, my family and I had to stop it because we could no longer organize events for the benefit of the people. But then we started thinking of new ways to help and organized non-profit events in the fairgrounds of Santa Clara County. We’ve had Halloween events, Santa’s coffee, free pumpkin stickers, movie dinners, and other events we can do to give families a place for community.
As an immigrant yourself, what was it like to grow up on a low-income family?
We grew up on low income in San Martin. I come from a family of six, so it was hard to afford, say, going to the movies. This is the reality with many people. Our Thanksgiving meals came from food banks and other assistance. Sometimes we (the children) had to go to food banks on our own, which is why I focus so much on food security. You can’t think when you’re hungry. We’ve never been to Disneyland or Greater America, as families hope to do. We didn’t have any of the things that people take for granted so often.
We grew up living without documents, and it’s simple: without documents. Somehow you live your life in the shadows.
There is a lot of trust that goes into accepting help from someone when you don’t have documents. Why is it important to build trust with the Latino community through food, clothing and events?
When you host events with stage and artists and free food and free face painting and arts and crafts and resources from families, you begin to build trust in the community and learn what people like us need. When I tell them that I grew up without documents, that I was a farmer and that I want to help, we have people who trust us.
For an undocumented immigrant, you will see people who would not even dare to leave their homes, do not care about these public events and discussions, because they do not trust each other easily. But with us, for example, when we collect personal information – which is dangerous for undocumented immigrants – they trust that we use it for good. The building of this trust has happened in the last two years and now we will be able to do more events and bring people back to the community.
We have spent much of the last two years at home, and it has been particularly difficult for undocumented immigrants to find work, keep food on the table, and maintain hope. Have you seen this hope and community return?
I do it and I think that’s the best thing. Let’s say we serve a family. Before you know it, they are also volunteers and lead their children. They see that they have community, they are out of the house, they communicate, they communicate with other volunteers and they learn. We live in an area where the Latin community is slowly but surely moving out. Everyone notices it, your neighborhood changes and everything becomes more expensive.
You really have to see for yourself what kind of community we have built. People come shy, but next time they are more social. For many of us, this is going to school, going to work, going home, maybe doing something else, but don’t get in trouble. It is amazing to see that people see themselves as part of a community because of the work we do.
Title: CEO of Celebration Nation, Inc.
residence: San Jose
Education: He graduated from Anne Sobrato High School and attended De Anza College
family: Sister Victoria, brothers Gonzalo and Martin, father Jose and mother Martha
FIVE THINGS FOR FLOR MARTINES
- She picked grapes in Northern California when she was 14, and worked for two summers pruning vineyards and reaping the harvest.
- Dancing is a favorite hobby
- I really like Reggaeton and Cumbia.
- My favorite thing is to enjoy delicious food with the family and spend time with them.
- He began his entrepreneurial career while studying at De Anza.